Driving Rain

Fish don’t take days off for bad weather, so our field work often means spending time in whatever conditions nature has to offer. Our crew powered through the deluge to install a fish counting weir on the Salinas River a few weeks ago. Unlike other rivers that get their water from snowmelt, the Salinas Basin is a rain-driven system—and sometimes requires working in the driving rain. The volatile flows on this flashy river quickly ramp up after a downpour, so we take extra care in securing the weirs to withstand the impact.

Scientists recently studied the Salinas Basin to understand the processes that cause rivers to branch. They compared Salinas to Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Plateau, and created a mathematical model that factors in two competing forces: water cutting through the soil, and the soil filling back in. Salinas has softer rocks and more runoff, so the water wins out and creates branching systems that are four times as fine as the Pennsylvania rivers. The complex river network makes an interesting and challenging site for us to monitor—whether rain or shine.